Tuberculosis Strikes the Class of 1944

 Education and outreach, From the collections, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Tuberculosis Strikes the Class of 1944
Feb 022015
 

by John Anderies, our marvelous volunteer

Members of the class of 1944 pose with Dr. Kuhlenbeck at Somerton Airport, Philadelphia. Drexel University College of Medicine, Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy.

Following their first demanding year at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the women of the class of 1944 were rewarded with a trip to Somerton Airport in northeast Philadelphia. There, Professor of Anatomy Hartwig Kuhlenbeck, himself a licensed pilot, took the young women on flights in his Challenger biplane. A German immigrant who later served in the United States Army Medical Corps during WWII, Kuhlenbeck kept a detailed Tagbuch or Daybook for much of his life:

Donnerstag, Freitag und Sonnabend, den 29., 30., und 31. Mai fliege ich zu Somerton in meinem Challenger zahlreiche kurze Passagierfluge fur meine Studentinnen vom Woman’s Medical College. Ich habe zum Schluss dieses akademischen Jahres die Klasse des ersten Studienjahres – die “freshman class” – zu einem Fluge eingeladen und wir haben diese Klasse von 39 Studentinnen hierzu in drei Gruppen auf drei aufeinanderfolgende Tage verteilt – ich kann bei jedem Fluge je zwei Passagiere im vorderen Cockpit unterbringen. Auch meine Assistentinnen und die Laborantin sind bei dieser Veranstaltung einbegriffen.1

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the 29th, 30th, and 31st of May, I’m flying many short passenger flights in my Challenger at Somerton for my students from the Woman’s Medical College. For the end of this academic year, I invited the first-year class (the “freshman class”) to take a flight, and we’ve divided this class of thirty-nine students into three groups on three successive days. I can accommodate two passengers in the front cockpit on each flight. My assistants and laboratory technician are also included in this event.

The class of 1944 was originally composed of 41 women. During this weekend of sailing through the skies, none would have expected the changes that were to come. According to an oral history interview conducted with one classmate, almost a third of the women had to drop out of medical school because they contracted tuberculosis. Most of these women did not make it back to finish their degrees. Sadly, at least two of the women died of the disease. Continue reading »


  1. Tagenbuchblaetter, 1938-1941. Hartwig Kuhlenbeck papers. Drexel University College of Medicine, Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy. 

“We give our vote for a lady physician here”:
Welcoming Doctor or Doctress

 Digital history, Education and outreach, Happenings  Comments Off on “We give our vote for a lady physician here”:
Welcoming Doctor or Doctress
Sep 232014
 

Our long-awaited (and worked upon) digital history project is finally what we can call “complete”!

Please welcome Doctor or Doctress: Exploring American history through the eyes of women physicians. Doctor or Doctress is not just a digital collections website or online exhibit; it is both, and something more.

Our original intention for Doctor or Doctress was “to enable students to become history detectives, conducting their own research in American history by exploring the stories of pioneering medical women.” We wanted to create a website that featured our collection material as ‘stories’; as a new way to discover, engage with, and interpret primary source documents. We wanted to create a site that would allow primary source material to reach and be interesting to high school students. High school students are generally underserved by resources like digital collections and online exhibits. Students don’t know to look for them, and if they find them, may not know how valuable and engaging they can be. Such sites don’t often market to high schools students; however, at least in the archives field, outreach to younger people is a hot discussion topic, and one that many repositories are acting upon.  But that’s another blog post.

Our ‘stories’ are created around primary source documents. These materials are put into a larger historical context, giving students a chance to place individual people in events during American history, and allowing them to connect with history in a more meaningful way.  The core documents of each story can be explored in several ways: a digital version of the original, through an excerpted typed transcript, or through an audio file (a huge hit with students!). Discussion questions help guide interpretation and give students a focus when interacting with historical documents.

Our development team customized the out-of-the-box Islandora software, allowing it to support this complex interpretive content and functionality that makes Doctor or Doctress stand out from standard collections management databases.  Islandora’s potential for an innovative collections management database and exhibit showcase had not been fully explored, so our work was new and, of course, quite challenging at times.  However, the end result meets our requirements, is attractive, and functions well, and because Islandora is open-source, others can learn from our project.

It’s hard to believe that the project formerly known as “the digital history toolkit” is now complete, and ready for Phase II development (which will include more content and possibly more interactive features).  From post-it notes to the web, it’s been a challenging, but satisfying, journey to Doctor or Doctress.